In January of 2007 I walked into the Working Families Party office at 2-4 Nevins Street not fully sure of what I was getting myself in to or what the job I was applying for really meant I would be doing. For the following seven months I would get the best first hand understanding of how an organization can mobilize people through their organization and the passion of it's workers into creating real social change. I wish everyone even if for only one day could experience what it is like to walk in the office knowing that they will see the other side of what it means to be truly involved in our democracy and help to organize those in their communities.
When people think of the democratic process the first thing and for many the only thing they think of and is required of them is to go vote on election day. For me there are many very sad parts of that statement in that even with that mentality more than half of the registered voters in this country do not even fulfill that right which so many before them have fought for them to be able to exercise. The other part that saddens me is that many think once they exercise their right to vote on Election Day that their requirements as a citizen of this republic are fulfilled until the next time elections come around. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Who we elect certainly plays a role in the policies that we see in our daily lives, but it is in the action of holding the politicians we send to the state county office, the state house, or Washington D.C. that we can have the most impact on the policies that are passed. My first experience with WFP was an election campaign and I believe a canvass operation was in the field for 34 of the 35 days leading up to the election to inform voters of the choices in the election, allow them to ask questions so they could make informed decisions and most importantly encourage them to vote and be a part of the process. Seems like a normal thing for most to pay attention at least in the last couple weeks of an election cycle but in that case it was a special election in January on Long Island where the expected turnout was only expected to be 10-15%.
When that election was over there was no consideration that the fight and the work for social change was at all finished but in the results of the election all of us were more driven to enact it in what many deem the "offseason" of the political process. In the weeks that followed the work stopped being about a particular candidate and shifted into a letter and phone campaign about budget cuts to health care that the new governor was proposing in his first budget. This is the real work of democracy. You elect representatives in this case having just been sworn into office a month prior and then you see the proposals on the table and you hold them accountable to the desires of their constituents by getting the constituents organized in a united voice.
If in this economy you believe in things like the right to a higher minimum wage, affordable housing, transparent government, green jobs, a living wage, paid family leave, and of course universal affordable health care then on November 2nd in NYC you will vote Row E to help the Working Families Party hold your politicians accountable. Since I believe in all of those things today I go back to the front lines of organizing and seek to help others understand those things and make that same choice in the midterm elections this year. All the talk in the mainstream media is about the enthusiasm gap and how the passion rests on the conservative side of the aisle. I dare all those in the media to walk into a WFP canvass operation because when they walk out they will think much differently.
In 2008 Barack Obama ran his campaign on the idea that one voice could change a room and that the accumulation of those voices could eventually in the domino effect change the world. I am a believer to that in the abstract, but what I know even more is that every person I see when I walk in that WFP office this morning will do their part today to help change the world of someone they talk to today about exercising their rights as an informed voter come November 2nd, 2010 and even more they will still be doing it on November 3rd when the cameras stop paying attention at the local levels.
And now a message from Matt Damon: